A Toast to the Holidays

Let’s face it; you can’t get into the holiday spirit without some holiday spirits. Here, we describe two libations that are sure to get you through the chaos of Christmas:

Wassail

The origin of the word “wassail” means “good health” in Middle English. The ancient English toasted to good health and a healthy apple harvest with a glass of this hot mulled cider, typically at the start of the New Year. It’s sometimes called “Lamb’s Wool” because the apple pulp gathers in a frothy layer at the top. The tradition later became associated with caroling.

If you’re feeling adventurous and want to make Wassail, we entrust Alton Brown from the Food Network to provide you with a solid recipe (watch the episode here).

Ingredients

  • 6 small Fuji apples, cored
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 1 cup water
  • 72 ounces ale*
  • 750 ml Madeira (a fortified Portuguese wine)
  • 10 whole cloves
  • 10 whole allspice berries
  • 1 cinnamon stick, 2-inches long
  • 1 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 6 large eggs, separated

* PLEASE do your research on what the word “ale” means. Don’t pour a six-pack of Budweiser in! Find a beer with the word “ale” in it. “Winter warmer” beers will also work. One commenter in the web version of this recipe recommended Chimay. We suggest something a little cheaper and widely available: Samuel Adams Old Fezziwig Ale. It can be found in the Samuel Adams Winter Variety Pack… so after you use up the ale, you’ll get another 18 tasty beers to enjoy. Score!)

Directions

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Put the apples into an 8 by 8-inch glass baking dish. Spoon the brown sugar into the center of each apple, dividing the sugar evenly among them. Pour the water into the bottom of the dish and bake until tender, about 45 minutes.

Pour the ale and Madeira into a large slow cooker. Put the cloves, allspice, and cinnamon into a small muslin bag or cheesecloth, tied with kitchen twine, and add to the slow cooker along with the ginger and nutmeg. Set the slow cooker to medium heat and bring the mixture to at least 120 degrees F. Do not boil.

Add the egg whites to a medium bowl and using a hand mixer, beat until stiff peaks form. Put the egg yolks into a separate bowl and beat until lightened in color and frothy, approximately 2 minutes. Add the egg whites to the yolks and using the hand mixer, beat, just until combined. Slowly add 4 to 6 ounces of the alcohol mixture from the slow cooker to the egg mixture, beating with the hand mixer on low speed. Return this mixture to the slow cooker and whisk to combine.
Add the apples and the liquid from the baking dish to the wassail and stir to combine. Ladle into cups and serve.

Egg Nog

This dairy concoction first appeared in England in the 17th century,  a descendant of the hot British drink called posset, which consists of eggs, milk, and ale or wine. Since farms (and, thus dairy products) were mostly found on estates, eggnog became a drink of the upper class. The drink made its way to America, where many settlers were farmers so milk was readily available. For an alcoholic element, Americans used rum, a product of the nearby Caribbean, was also plentiful and affordable.

Eggnog is traditionally associated with a toast to good health, so it naturally became a part of the Christmas season and the New Year.

Sure, you could buy a carton of egg nog at the supermarket, but that’s no fun! Eggnog recipes are all over the Internet and are all pretty similar. But again, we leave it to Alton Brown:

Ingredients

  • 4 egg yolks
  • 1/3 cup sugar, plus 1 tablespoon
  • 1 pint whole milk
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 3 ounces bourbon
  • 1 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
  • 4 egg whites

Directions

In the bowl of a stand mixer, beat the egg yolks until they lighten in color. Gradually add the 1/3 cup sugar and continue to beat until it is completely dissolved. Add the milk, cream, bourbon and nutmeg and stir to combine.

Place the egg whites in the bowl of a stand mixer and beat to soft peaks. With the mixer still running gradually add the 1 tablespoon of sugar and beat until stiff peaks form.

Whisk the egg whites into the mixture. Chill and serve.